desk lunch – 2015-06-18

Brought to you this week by #RAPTORSQUAD and DINOSAURS. I’ve spent the week diversifying my interests but it’s so hard. It’s so hard. 

#CharlestonShooting


Historian B.G. Corbin points out that an early form of astronomical photography became available during the time when [Étienne Léopold] Trouvelot was working, but that the artist rejected the idea of switching media, arguing that “the camera could not replace the human eye” when it came to capturing the subtleties of structure and configuration.

I particularly like the Jupiter drawing because it captures the depth of the cloud cover- it’s something we see in our own clouds every day, but an element obviously lacking in our actual probe photos.

On Earth, humans long ago became the global force that decides these strange creatures’ fates, despite the fact that we barely think about them and, in many cases, only recently discovered their existence. The same will be true for any nearby planet. We are about to export the best and worst of the Anthropocene to the rest of our solar system, so we better figure out what our responsibilities will be when we get there.

NERD KLAXON: I include this because it goes into great, great detail (ok, only 3200 words of detail) the simple fact that probes on another surface, a probe with our dirt and our elements and our microbes, would constitute as colonization. It would be the beginning of turning another world into our own- or, worst case scenario, ruining it because their ecosystems are incompatible. In conclusion, I look forward to The Martian and blissfully discussing every single thing that can go wrong in space exploration for the next 2-3 years. At least. This is like an opening act.


POETRY RECS! 

BOAAT Press has done a beautiful thing and put the PDFs of their 2015 poetry chapbook contest winner (and runners up, I think?) up on their website for free. They only ask that you donate what you like. The winning chapbook, Call It a Premonition: Translations from the Voynich Manuscript by Jess Feldman, captures this gorgeous moody and sulky modern-medieval world, particularly in the title poem at the close of the book:

In a distant future
I look like a boy only
still a girl but in slacks okay
I am moving my lacquered
fingers so text materializes
across a framed fluid tapestry
without seams
Blues for a Red Planet by T.A.Noonan at Open Letters Monthly
But who shall dwell in these worlds, asks Kepler,
if they be inhabited? Not my girls in double-
sided tape. They will wait as God has waited
six thousand years for an observer.
At the End#finalpoem from Jimin Han
We never made it to the coast.
I never saw you.
Rivers changed course without warning
or did we have warning?
Maybe we ignored the warning.

ENCLAVE, Entropy Mag’s community space, is doing something interesting with #finalpoem: publishing every submission, all of which center on the last poem a writer would offer if the world was ending next week. You can submit here.


Advertisements

Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

I love good action movies because they blend in-your-face spectacle with whisper-quiet subtext in between all the explosions. Good action movies call back to Western culture’s urtext action movie, Homer’s Iliad; they perform a similar balancing act between subtlety and a spear literally breaking a guy’s head apart from the inside out. It’s the subtlety that sticks with me because it takes longer to sink in and then lingers much longer.

Enter Jurassic World and its lack of feminism in that overt Katniss-branded sense. (Never mind that Bryce Dallas Howard did everything Chris Pratt did while wearing ivory pumps that he deemed impractical.) Jurassic Park had Laura Dern and Hacker Girl while Jurassic World had four speaking roles for women (Howard, Judy Greer, Control Room Girl, and Morgana from Merlin) compared to three times as many speaking roles for men. That’s not reflective of the world I live in, but the world I live in also doesn’t have a dinosaur theme park.

Those gendered choices represent the reality of Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t use a rocket launcher against Indominus Rex (THE UNTAMED KING!!! NOTHING IS CHILL ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!), but there’s more to feminism than portraying women as ultra-violent monsters at the same rate that men are portrayed ultra-violent monsters. That’s the subtext of Jurassic World: a disaster movie that predominantly features men messing up and served with Action Movie Justice. We can use feminism as a lens on Jurassic World that allows us to identify toxic masculinity for what it is and call it out.

So, in order of appearance, here’s an incomplete list that examines the men in Jurassic World and their experience in this culture of toxic masculinity. All movie-canon errors are my own because, at the time of writing, I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and IMDb can only supply so much. SPOILERS BELOW, OBVIOUSLY.

Continue reading Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

desk lunch – 2015-06-11

Brought to you this week by several days of being outside and seeing people while also rounding up all the cats in Neko Atsume. (It’s free to download, but it will cost you minutes of your life every day, and you will seriously consider the economics of this planet of stray cats, and it will all make perfect sense.) And then Alexander wept, etc. Also!! Keep an eye on the blog at The Rumpus, as I’ll occasionally contribute more literary-minded links over there.

RIP Christopher Lee and all the great old dudes 2015 has claimed this year.


In case you couldn’t tell from my brief journey into the world of dinosaur romance: I love Jurassic Park. I look forward to Jurassic World this week because big screen dinosaur spectacles are so few and far between!! So prime yourself with this wonderfully earnest movie-and-book-canon love letter to Ian Malcolm.

Also, here’s my Jurassic World dream cameo: it’s during this scene full of chaos in the streets of the park, etc. Run, scream, run, scream: CUT TO A SIDEWALK CAFE WHERE DR. IAN MALCOLM SITS AT AN UNDISTURBED TABLE, SIPPING AN ESPRESSO, LAUGHING TO HIMSELF. I can’t ask for the filmmakers to dedicate five or ten or maybe 30 minutes of a film to Jeff Goldblum laughing to himself (remixed), but I can dream.


But despite our toxic relationship and his abusive nature, I pen this letter under a cloak of anonymity because my father, from what I have recently learned, is queer but not proud. And by no means is he out.

O’Rei, the author, draws a striking line between deferment and displacement- it’s a law of physics, that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and displacement will be the other side of deferment. Something deferred can fester or explode, but much more likely it’ll shift its power and weight in some other direction, a sustained force replenished as long as (in this case) there’s desire deferred to fuel it.


Like all such testaments, the Embroidery is both repository and maker of memory: source of the facts we resolve into histories, participant in the worlds that designed it and inherited it, tribute to and bearer of war.

IT’S A #LONGREAD. SAVE THIS TO POCKET. Alison Kinney writes a richly researched essay on war memorials, starting with the Bayeux Tapestry (EMBROIDERY). I read so much history and read more than my share of war narratives, and that’s just it: wars are often presented as narratives that have to be told and retold, from as many different angles as possible, the better to understand this chaotic rupture of life and the social order. It’s interesting to consider the temporality of war memorials, the way they don’t evolve as our stories or understanding of a war or battle does. That’s the surface fact of a memorial, but Kinney brings this into a new light: that these memorials capture a raw feeling of war that we, the survivors and inheritors, can’t narrativize out of the way.

We launch our memorials, as time capsules—ravens or doves—or bombs—into unknown futures, bearing our faults and stories, not knowing which will crumble or rot, be swallowed by weeds, mounted in museums, or blasted. We can’t predict whether, freshly restored, they’ll urge future soldiers to kill, or mourn another war intended to end all wars.

Remember NASA’s Dawn Mission, whose trajectory and bright spots I babbled about almost exactly two months ago? GUESS WHAT. THERE’S PHOTOS OF CERES. In fact, there are enough photos of dwarf planet Ceres for NASA to create this video showing us its topography. FULL SCREEN. VOLUME UP. The star field was added after the fact to provide visual relief from a dark background and the illusion of distance, don’t worry about it, ok? Here’s the full post from NASA and the twitter link to the video for your retweeting pleasure.


It’s real.

If The Velociraptor From Jurassic Park Were Your Girlfriend

clever girlIf the velociraptor from Jurassic Park were your girlfriend, you would have the weirdest meet-cute.

You’re a handler on Muldoon’s staff. Handlers are classified as Essential Personnel so when the evacuation call comes, you stay. Your team splits up to put out fires around the island, but you’re the only one who returns to the visitors’ center. You see two raptors swarming with a T-Rex not far behind, so you hide. You enter the building and give yourself an hour in one of the ground floor utility closets while the animal battle in the lobby handles itself. The screeching of the raptors stops; the building is silent. You tell yourself that, thanks to the sheer size of animals you’re dealing with, their movements are easier to track than what you’re used to handling.

You almost believe that, but then you see her.

Read the rest at The Toast.

desk lunch – 2015-04-09

Brought to you during a binge-watch of Madam Secretary. If The Good Wife was CBS’s first arrow into my Smaug armor, this show is Bard’s arrow. I will fall into the lake at Esgaroth, clawing helplessly at the dream of Téa Leoni and Tim Daly’s sweaters and blazers collection.

The obvious thing that has happened is that the technology has become more central in the students’ experience…. These classroom technologies become more conspicuous as things that separate the students from the class and what I suspect they understand as the “real” me.

It still shocks and humbles me to see how deeply we feel our connection with technology. We’re long past taking the Office Space printer to a field with baseball bats. When a site or drive crashes at the worst possible time, when something blows up on Twitter without us, when we just can’t parse the tech in front of us, it hits us where we breathe. I appreciate the piece above, written by a grad student teaching his composition classes online, on the difficulties that his students encounter as they learn solely through an online presence. A simplified workflow doesn’t offer a substitute for vision, intention, and communication. It’s something I should have etched into the back of my hand so I don’t forget.

The temptation I’ve wrestled with is to simply dismiss this silly thing, New Yorker or no, as the sad ravings of a man trying to escape his guilt-ridden Protestant Puritan heritage and justify his consumerist lifestyle. But I can’t. It’s not about defending Audubon’s honor against this weird ad hominem assault—or not primarily that, anyway. It’s about defending an idea against the false dichotomy Franzen tries to advance in his essay.

No, you didn’t ask and no, I’m not over the Audubon Society’s beef with Jonathan Franzen over ethics in avian journalism. I read this from a fainting couch with my phone in one hand and smelling salts in the other. I hope, for Franzen’s sake, someone will bind this scathing takedown from the Audubon Society in a life-sized illustrated folio, with birds of America shrieking throughout AND ANOTHER THING.

The character of Cromwell as drawn by Mantel fascinates me because he does nothing without a purpose, and yet it’s not clear what drives him. He accumulates wealth, but gives much of it away, so greed  isn’t his motive. He cultivates safe spaces for Protestant religious practice but retains a lifelong loyalty to a Catholic cardinal. He rises in court and in authority, but doesn’t get drunk on power; his inner monologue reveals a man who never believes he is completely safe.

Wolf Hall finally arrived on PBS this past Sunday. Here Sara covers a lot of what I appreciated about Mantel’s books and the miniseries. Mostly, I love Wolf Hall because it’s so weird compared to every other version we’ve seen of the story of Henry VIII. Sex exists in whispers and contracts; everyone hustles for a spot in the room with Henry, the room where everything happens but no one can reveal the cost and effort it took to get there. Wolf Hall captures this temporality so often absent from historical fiction: no one knows they’re in a story, no one knows there will be one accepted version of how their lives shook out. Cromwell’s story is about the story, the steps taken to unfold and shape a life. Who cares about how it ends when everyone dies anyway?

NASA’s Dawn Mission twitter account linked to their video animating the planned trajectory of the craft around Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. It came up again after more than a month without an update about those bright spots on Ceres’s surface, and the animation shows that Dawn still hasn’t made it into the close approach phase of its journey yet. I just want to note for the record that we (as a species!!) regularly shoot robots into space and MAKE THEM OUR EYES. There’s a robot on a comet, there are robots on and around Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto, and a robot has left our star system for interstellar space. PEOPLE WALKED ON OUR MOON’S FACE.

Look: just because Bronotsaurus can rejoin the land of valid dinosaur taxonomy does not mean that Pluto gets to be a planet again. Have scientists re-evaluated fossil records and revised their 25-year-old conclusions? Yes! Has Pluto gained the mass necessary to meet the IAU’s standards for planet status? No! Did the IAU cave a little and designate objects in Pluto’s neighborhood PLUTOIDS to appease people? Yeah, like seven years ago. When it comes to science, these developments are a feature, not a bug.